Mobster Story With a Twist of Faith

“Crazy Phil” Leonetti rose to power and became the underboss of the Philadelphia—Atlantic City La Cosa Nostra in the 1980s. He had already committed two murders in furtherance of their business before he became “made” as a full-fledged member.

Blood Oath – A Mobster Story

During the “Blood Oath” ceremony years earlier, then mob boss, Phil Testa, pointed to a knife and gun laid before him. “Would you use these to protect your friends? Would you place this brotherhood before everything that you love in your life? If you had a wife or a child and they were on their deathbed and we needed you, would you leave them and join us?”

“Yes” was Crazy Phil’s response to each question.

Following the oath of allegiance, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, a bloodthirsty killer himself, and a man who later became the mob boss of the same area, pricked Crazy Phil’s finger with a tie clip, and then told him to cup his hands. Little Nicky lit the picture of a saint on fire, and then placed it in the hands of Crazy Phil. “May I burn like this saint,” he was told to repeat until the flame extinguished, “if I betray my friends.” [1]

mobster story

Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, (center) one of the most bloodthirsty and maniacal American organized crime figures of all-time, died of natural causes in a North Carolina federal prison hospital January 13, 2017. He was less than two months shy of his 88th birthday. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mafia Prince

As I read about this process documented in the book, Mafia Prince, I thought about the contrasting lifestyles between members of the mob, who follow the money for power, and members of God’s kingdom, who follow Jesus for purpose.

Pondering Death

As a career cop, I frequently think about death. Not in a morbid sort of way, but as a matter of reality.

Our social media news feeds bring every LODD to the forefront, since most law enforcement related news organizations pay tribute to those who’ve sacrificed their life for the benefit of a community.

So rather than fearing death, I want to be certain that I’m not playing Russian Roulette with my life.

cops die

(Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)


Beyond that, I’m like so many other police officers who’ve encountered circumstances that trigger issues of post-traumatic stress, or as I’ve recently learned, Law Enforcement Distress Syndrome (LEDS).

So whether it’s PTSD or LEDS, we need positive coping mechanisms. Mine have always come in the form of faith, family, an inner circle of friends, and fitness.

I’m going to broach the issue of faith, and share what it means to me. Hopefully, I’m not going to scare you away!

Altogether Different Oath – A Twist of Faith

The resurrected Christ asked Peter to take an altogether different oath after denying Jesus three times before he was crucified.

When Jesus met Peter after the resurrection, not so coincidently, he asked him three times if he loved him. On each occasion Peter affirmed his devotion to his Lord and Savior, and Jesus successively instructed Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

Jesus continued by foretelling Peter’s future and completed his directions by saying, “Follow me.”

Mob Bosses Die

Mob boss, Phil Testa, was later murdered. While reading Mafia Prince, I lost count of how many murders “Little Nicky” was responsible for, but he had been serving a life sentence in prison since 1988, before his death on January 13, 2017. Two months shy of being 88-years-old, his earthly term ended from natural causes, according to gangsterreport.

His nephew, and underboss, “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, was indicted on ten murders. He agreed to cooperate with the FBI and eventually testified against 48 members of the mob. After serving five years in prison, he was released and now lives in hiding.

Apostles Die Too

Ultimately, the apostle Peter’s faith cost him his life as he was crucified for his publicly bold assertions. Yet Peter’s eternal destiny is secured by his faith in the resurrected Messiah.

Everyone Needs a Savior 

The incredible thing about substitutionary atonement—Christ paying the price for our sin—is that it is offered to all humanity, (gasp) … even members of the mob.

Nevertheless, it is a gift that needs to be received.

If you have issue with God making this offer to everyone, you might find the history of Saul of Tarsus equally fascinating. The man with a mob-like background wrote nearly half of the New Testament after he became Paul the apostle. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

What Is the Condition of Your Heart?

In the meantime, I will “feed the lambs, tend the sheep, and feed the sheep,” for I too have denied Jesus three times or more!

What is the condition of your heart? Are you ready to receive God’s grace and be forgiven? Has his mercy found you hiding? Are you ready to live for Jesus and secure your place in heaven?

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

While there are earthly consequences for our actions, the eternal offer is on the table for members in law enforcement and the mob alike!


[1] Philip Leonetti, with Scott Burnstein and Christopher Graziano, Mafia Prince, (Running Press 2012, 2014), 101.

Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today